A Whale of an Idea

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When you think “fast,” a humpback whale might not be the first animal that comes to mind. But these thousand-pound beasts are speedier than you might think.

windmill whale

Although they can grow to the size of a school bus and weigh as much as 13 Hummer SUVs, they’re able to chase and capture swift-moving prey and make sharp, tight turns with ease.

Their secret: Tubercles.

Uhhh, tuber-wha?

Tubercles are the little bumps that line the front edge of humpback fins and it turns out they’re what make them such efficient swimmers. The bumps make it possible for the whales to tilt their fins at super steep angles and soar up through the water without stalling. Compared to regular, smooth fins, humpback fins create 32% less drag and an 8% rise in lift.

Scientists think that similar bumps could lead to everything from better airplane designs, to more agile submarines, and wind turbines (read: environmentally friendly technology!). In fact, WhalePower Corp., which designs windmill blades with tubercles, is getting a head start. So far, tests show that the tubercles design boosts the power output of small windmills by an impressive 20%!

Once again, the credit goes to Mother Nature for her awesome design ideas, as well as biologist Frank Fish (yep, that’s his real name) who figured out these little bumps have a lot of potential. But Mr. Fish isn’t the only person using nature’s designs for good.

Speaking of fish…

When the engineers at Mercedes-Benz were told to design a more efficient car, they delved into the ocean depths for a little inspiration of their own.

The boxfish, aka trunkfish, aka cowfish, is a warm ocean dweller with a boxy, bony frame. But don’t let its square exterior fool you – this formidable fish has strength, stability and aerodynamics all rolled into one. Hence why the engineers decided to pull a copy-cat, or in this case, a copy-fish!

Mercedes-Benz called the boxfish “a prime example of the ingenious inventions developed by nature over millions of years of evolution.”

In 2005, the Bionic Car made its splashy debut on the world car stage. It might still only be in the concept stage, but when it finally hits the road it’s going to be one of the most efficient, aerodynamic vehicles ever driven! In fact, this diesel-powered prototype can reach speeds of up to 190 kilometres an hour and boasts a fuel economy of 30 kilometers per litre!

Nature somehow always manages to use the least amount of energy to get the job done in the best way possible (thank you, evolution). Plus it always recycles waste back into the natural cycle. SO it only makes sense that if we want to be more efficient, we should keep paying attention to how nature gets things done. Can you imagine how many more possibilities lie out there in fields, forests and forgotten corners of the ocean? Before they disappear YOU can take action to help protect them.

  • Learn more about marine protected areas and proposed marine areas in Canada.
  • Before you accidentally eat an endangered ocean dweller, check the Canada Seafood Guide to make sure your fishy meal’s got the stamp of approval.
Earth Rangers is a non-profit organization that works to inspire and educate children about the environment. At EarthRangers.com kids can play games, discover amazing facts, meet animal ambassadors and fundraise to protect biodiversity.

11 COMMENTS

  1. yo if whales die then what. all of the hard work it took to find them and study them will go to waste. s.o.w. save our whales.